The history of Druidic spiritual tradition can be traced over thousands of years and there are four significant periods in history which had a profound impact on the establishment of the Druidic way of life.
The Birth of Druidry
The first evidence of the spiritual practises of Druidism can be traced back 25,000 years ago when candidates for initiation would crawl into caves painted with figures of wild animals in order to be initiated in the belly of Mother Earth and reborn into the light of day.
Some of these documented caves are the Pinhole Caves in Derbyshire, Chauvet and Lascaux Caves in France, and the Altamira Caves in Spain.
Druidry in 3000 BC
Great mounds were built 20,000 years later, around 3000 BC, and initiates seeking reawakening within the Earth would sit within these mounds in darkness awaiting the time of their rebirth.
An example of such a mound can be found at New Grange in Ireland where a shaft was built facing the Winter Solstice sunrise so that initiates could be bathed in light after their vigil through the night.
Druidry in the 16th Century
A key text of Druidic spirituality was transcribed in the 16th century following on from the oral traditions of Christian clerics.
This text described the spiritual and magical training of the Druid in which he/she is eaten by a Goddess, enters her belly, and is reborn as the most celebrated poet in the land.
In following this training, Druids were told to lie in darkness for days with complete sensory deprivation in order to awaken their creative genius and would then be reborn into the light of the world.
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This practise of seeking spiritual rebirth through enduring a simulated death-birth experience can be traced through four major period in history relating to the development of Druidic spirituality.
First Significant Period in Druidry’s History
The first period in history took place during the prehistoric age in which tribes from as far as Spain and the steppes of Russia moved towards Britain and Ireland and a culture of building megalith structures such as New Grange and Stonehenge developed.
Second Significant Period in Druidry’s History
The building age then gave way to the age of documented history in which we discover that the Druids had developed a sophisticated religious system which contained three types of Druids, i.e. the Bards who knew the songs and stories of the tribe, the Ovates who were healers and seers, and the Druids who were philosophers and teachers.
Third Significant Period in Druidry’s History
The coming of Christianity led to the third period in which the schools of the Bards became Christian schools, the Ovates became the village healers, and the Druids remained the intellectuals and eventually converted to Christianity.
This 3rd period lasted a thousand years from the 6th to the 16th centuries, but Druidic traditions were kept alive by the Christian clerics who transcribed the stories of the Druids.
Fourth Significant Period in Druidry’s History
The 4th period began when scholars in Europe during the 16th century rediscovered the Druids and then began to reclaim their Celtic heritage.
This provoked a period known as the Druid Revival – which continues today – in which societies were formed to study Druidism and Celticism.
William Stukeley, known as the founding father of the science of archaeology, formed a Druid society in London and many cultural festivals which incorporated Druidic rites began to take place in Wales, Cornwall and Brittany.